Coffee with the COPPS program grows in popularity

MONTROSE — About 25 Crescenta Valley and Glendale residents had coffee with officials from the Glendale Police Department and Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station on Tuesday morning at Black Cow restaurant as part of a growing community policing strategy.

Glendale Forensic Specialist Angela Hilliard had the residents spellbound as she explained the difference between the myth and reality of her job.

“A lot of times when we go to the scene, the body is gone,” she said.

She explained the methods used to gather evidence, from blood pattern analysis to DNA to fingerprints.

“We are sent out for everything from bank fraud to murder,” she said.

Coffee with the COPPS, or Community Police Partnership, began earlier this year as an outreach goal of bringing the community opinions and issues to law enforcement, said Glendale Police Officer Matt Zakarian, the community officer in Montrose who has spearheaded the gatherings and has seen it grown over the months.

“It's a great venue for the community to talk to cops on a variety of issues from traffic concerns to protecting themselves from vehicle burglary,” he said.

New neighborhood watch committees have formed after the morning meetings, and Zakarian said it has brought more awareness to the upcoming National Night Out event.

“It is important for neighbors to know neighbors,” he said.

It also breaks down the barrier that sometimes exists between residents and the police, participants said.

“We feel safe here,” said Albert Hofmann, a Montecito Park resident. “But we still have to be aware.”

Hofmann told Zakarian of an incident that occurred a few nights back in the early morning hours.

“My dogs were barking and going crazy. I looked outside and saw a person walking down the street and it was 3 in the morning,” he said.

“That's when you call the police,” Zakarian responded. “Being on the street at 3 a.m. is not a normal thing. If they are just taking a walk then they are usually happy to see an officer, but with the recent vehicle burglaries in the area it is a good idea to call us.”

Many times, Los Angeles County Sheriff's and California Highway Patrol officers participate.

“I see this as a way to show the community how Glendale police and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department work together,” said sheriff's Capt. Dave Silversparre, who's based at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station.

He added that the sheriff's and Glendale police patrolling areas are so close crimes often cross boundaries.

Jan Taylor does more than attend the morning meetings. She volunteers her clerical skills for the Montrose COPPS substation on Honolulu Avenue.

“I love it,” she said. “I get to see what it is really like for the police.”

She added that through her volunteer time she has discovered more about the community she was born and raised in, and is much more aware of her surroundings.

“We are seeing a lot more people walking the streets that are not from around here,” she said. “The other day we saw a homeless man walk down a neighbor's driveway. We knew she lived alone and would be frightened so we called the police. He was probably just looking through garbage cans, but we aren't used to that here.”

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